Bringing Hope: Girl to Girl

Imagine, as a mother, that your child is taken away from you and for years you are unable to see her. No longer able to rock her to sleep, to play with her at the park, or watch her grow from toddler to child to preteen. This is what my friend, Sonia, had to experience. Sonia is a mother of three; Andi (15), Andrielis (14), and Yoandi (11). They live in the poorest slum of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, on a garbage filled beach that too often has given the children infections. When her children were young, Sonia’s husband had an affair, and took the kids to Santiago, several hours away, not allowing Sonia to know where they were or how they were doing. She was distraught. It wasn’t until four years ago, when the kids’ father passed away, that they were reunited with their mother.

Whether you are a parent, a sister, an aunt, or even a babysitter, you can understand the torment that this is for someone who loves a child. The Dominican Republic is a very patriarchal society where women have few rights. Levels of prostitution are high, and boys are sent to school before girls, because they are viewed to be more valuable. Sonia’s daughter, Andrielis, is approaching the end of her elementary school as she will soon complete grade 8. Her future is uncertain. Her mother doesn’t have a high school education, and most girls in her neighbourhood drop out after grade 8 due to pregnancy or to begin working. If we do not step in, it is very likely that Andrielis will follow in the footsteps of her mother, and so many other females in her neighbourhood. She will drop out of school, get pregnant while still in her teens, find odd jobs working as a cleaner, and live hand to mouth for the rest of her life.

Andrielis is a like a sister to me, and I want more for her than that. As a female growing up in a macho world, I want her, and her future generation, to be protected. I don’t want her children to have to experience the separation that Andrielis had to suffer through when she was young. The only way to protect and empower her is through education.

I am working closely with Sonia, Andrielis, and friends in the Dominican Republic to create an education plan for Andrielis, but I cannot do this alone. Currently Andrielis is receiving 2 hours a week of private tutoring sessions with an American woman in English. This English will allow her to become accepted in the summer to start her grade 9 year at the best private school in the city. Upon graduation, she will be fully bilingual, and because this school is accredited by the USA, she will be able to go to University anywhere she wants. In order for this to be a hand up and not a hand out, and for Andrielis to learn the value of giving back to her community, in order to receive this opportunity, she will spend one day a week volunteering at a very poor school in her neighbourhood; working with the younger students, being a positive role model, and teaching them the skills she is learning.

Like I said before; I cannot do this alone and am desperate for help! I need a total of $2800 to cover one year’s worth of tuition, school supplies, and English lessons. Below is a list of ways you can get involved:

Go to and learn more about Andrielis, her story, and her future. Consider donating $20 to cover the cost of one week’s worth of private English lessons.  Check back at this site often to track her progress and watch her story unfold.

Go to and purchase a necklace from the Dominican line, with all proceeds going to Andrielis’ Education Fund.

Go to to get a blog design. $5 of every design goes to Andrielis’ Education Fund, and the rest goes to supporting my humanitarian aid work.

Imagine, for just one moment, that you are Sonia. After having her baby girl ripped away from her, she will never let her go again. She wants the best for Andrielis, and we can all play a part in making her dreams come true.

Thank you for your support,

Nikki Cochrane

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  1. Thanks for sharing Nikki!